What is SharePoint? A Guide for Beginner’s

You may have heard of SharePoint. You may even have used it, but what exactly is it and is it something that you or your organisation should know about and be using? It may well be that it is, as more than 250,000 organisations now use SharePoint. Not only that, more and more companies require people who are power users and who know the ins and outs of this software.

What is SharePoint?

SharePoint is a website-based team collaboration system. At its most basic organizations use it to create websites. What makes it so useful is that you can use it as a secure place to store, organize, share, and access information from any device. All that is required to use SharePoint is a web browser.

The fact that SharePoint is secure allows an organisation using SharePoint to control access to information and automate workflow. SharePoint is also:

  • A content management system which stores documents and allows them to be collaborated on.
  • A system that provides easy integration with other Office applications such as Word, PowerPoint, Outlook and Teams.

SharePoint isn’t Just One Thing

Although we talk about SharePoint as if it is one thing, it can actually refer to one or more products or technologies. For simplicity, however, there are two main SharePoint alternatives:

SharePoint Server       This is a version of SharePoint that an organisation manages on its own premises. That is, that organisation’s IT department would install SharePoint on the company’s own servers. An Office 365 Enterprise subscription can be purchased from Microsoft to take advantage of all the latest features, but essentially this version of SharePoint is entirely managed by the organisation itself. This might be suitable for larger organisations.

SharePoint in Microsoft 365       In this case Microsoft hosts SharePoint as a cloud-based service. This is suitable for businesses of all sizes. There is no need for the company to install SharePoint on its own premises. All that is required is subscription to a Microsoft 365 (formerly Office 365) plan or to the standalone SharePoint Online service.

What most people won’t be aware of is that SharePoint allows sync with OneDrive, which many of us already use.

What Are the Benefits of Using SharePoint?

1. Create and Share Site Templates

SharePoint is a powerful and very flexible tool that allows you to fully customise your sites through the use of lists, workflows, own branding and logos. The added benefit of this is that once a site has been created, it can then be saved as a template and used again, as many times as you wish.

An additional benefit is that the template that has been created can hold all of includes the basic framework of the website, including its libraries, content, documents and lists. Templates can be imported to other SharePoint environments and even shared with other SharePoint users.

2. Use SharePoint columns

Devoted Excel users will be excited by SharePoint columns which enable users to group, filter and sort complex sets of data. SharePoint columns also allow users to apply specific criteria to lists and libraries across multiple team sites. For example, you might set up your columns so you can track invoices by customer name and region. 

3. Drag and Drop from Your Computer

The best SharePoint feature for many day-to-day users is its convenient drag-and-drop interface, which allows them to easily upload documents from their own device. Using Microsoft’s Edge browser entire folders can be uploaded at once.

4. Team Sites with Group Permissions

Many believe that one of the best features of Microsoft SharePoint is its ability to create Team sites. The process is simple; sign in to your Office 365 account and then run the site creation wizard which will take you through the process step by step. Whilst setting up your site, you will have the opportunity to create group email lists. You can also configure the site so it is available to everyone in your organisation or only specific groups.

5. Team Collaboration on Office Documents

Perhaps the most well-known and used SharePoint feature is that documents such as Word documents and Excel spreadsheets can be collaborated on, by a number of users, in real time. This Real-time collaboration allows member of a team working on the same document to know the position of other users in the document and see changes as they happen. Co-authoring allows users to apply updates made by others when they choose. SharePoint can be configured to allow multiple users to work on say an Excel spreadsheet without causing conflict or losing work.

Although it is extremely customisable and can scale up to extremely complex systems, at its fundamental level SharePoint is easy to maintain to understand. You can find out more about it and even download it here. Microsoft even offers a completely free, even if slightly older version, to download. At Infero, we offer a range of courses for beginners and advanced users.

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